This year will go down in history as a time of great struggle and consequence. Our fight against the pandemic is an epic human endeavour, but we need to brace ourselves for an even more important battle in the months ahead – over the shape of our post-Covid economy.
Almost all governments agree that it is necessary to boost development, save our citizens from unemployment, and rescue businesses from bankruptcy with economic stimulus. But measures to combat the recession must also take into account the long-term concern of preventing the repetition of economic dependency on unreliable partners.
The pandemic has made us painfully aware of how crucial it is to have our own secure production lines for pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and laboratories. The same goes for 5G decisions. Disregarding the need to secure our critical technology would be a mistake for which Europeans would pay a considerable price.
National security must be the integral part of our thinking about globalisation. No one wants to build new walls between nations, but we also see that globalisation free from democratic control can have hazardous consequences. Today, our globalised world is facing undue influence from authoritarian nations – at Europe’s expense.
Awareness of the world’s imperfections should not lead us away from an interconnected world, but rather motivate us to make it better and freer. A democratically controlled and socially responsible globalised world, responsive to the requirements of Europe’s sovereignty and security, is the answer to these perils.
In the EU, our prosperity and our place in the global supply chain system will largely be determined by modern telecommunications infrastructure. Just as the automobile engine changed the way people moved in the 20th century, the 5G network will change the movement of critical information in our society. Data transmission with enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliable low latency communications, and the ability to connect multiple devices will accelerate the functioning of communication – and the economy as a whole – to an incomparable extent.
For this technology to serve good purposes, its implementation must be based on trust and democratic control. Otherwise, we risk that today’s crisis will be only a prelude to what awaits us if an unauthorised entity took control of 5G networks and supply chains. Soon, our entire economy will be based on this technology, and unable to function without it. We cannot afford it falling into the hands of cybercriminals, private or state-owned.
For Poland, we must ensure that we guard against the risks and vulnerabilities that arise from advances in 5G. We are committed to a 5G ecosystem built on trust, the bedrock of any system that carries our citizens’ most private information and the fruits of our intellectual property.
When building that ecosystem, we are faced with one question: who do we trust? The choices are clear: in Europe, we have two trusted, European vendors, both world-class firms with transparent business practices based on the rule of law. On the other side are two companies controlled by an authoritarian regime. Technological security, just like epidemiological security, is a crucial dimension of national security. Countries must be able to control technology suppliers to ensure safety, which is why they must be from countries that respect our fundamental values: democracy, transparency, human rights, and the rule of law. Otherwise, our control over them will be illusory, and the responsibility for security ill-defined.
Our alliance with the United States brought prosperity and peace to post-war Western Europe, and to this day brings security to almost all of our continent. My government believes that Europe needs to continue this alliance in a technological dimension, especially when it comes to the construction of our 5G network. This network will soon be omnipresent, and we must keep it secure at all costs. To do so, all European entrepreneurs must maintain clean production lines, free from potential industrial espionage – and safe from attacks that could interrupt their operations and harm the entire economy.
Realism in national security is fundamental to building a fair model of globalisation that our citizens will trust. Without this trust, the foundations of the global economy might not only falter, but collapse. We call on all countries and companies, especially our European neighbours, to adopt a clean path of robust national measures to secure their 5G networks. Just as in epidemiological security, realism in technological protection is essential for long-term maintenance of the economic rules of the game that will serve – and save – us all.
Mateusz Morawiecki is the Prime Minister of Poland
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